Keep Food Legal has been in the thick of the battle over the FDA's misguided proposal to amend the Nutrition Facts panels that appear on packaged foods sold throughout in the United States.
"'The people who read labels are the people who are already watching their health and their weight. This isn't going to cause a dramatic change,' said Baylen Linnekin, head of nonprofit Keep Food Legal and a critic of the labeling measure as well as other government involvement in the food sector, including subsidies," reported Reuters earlier this week.
Many of the proposed changes to the panel are largely cosmetic in nature, as Linnekin noted in a Reason column earlier this year.
"Some words would move around, while others would be abbreviated," he wrote. Those changes include moving recommended percent daily values from the right side of the panel to the left and shortening the words "Daily Value" to "DV".
That shuffling and swapping is as pointless as it is noncontroversial.
The problems lie elsewhere. The key problems with the proposed changes to Nutrition Facts panel appears to be that their contents are less about science and providing consumers with information than they are about serving as fodder for political battles. And it's no surprise that sugar--along with high fructose corn syrup, perhaps the most politicized food ingredient today--is at the center of the political maelstrom.
The most controversial change in the FDA's proposal would include a line in the Nutrition Facts panel that requires listing "added sugars." Sure, total sugars are already on that list. But the FDA wants you to know how much of the sweetener a food manufacturer has added to the food (in addition to any sugar that occurs naturally in any of the food ingredients).
What's the difference between added sugars and other sugars? Nutritionists (which we're not) will tell you there is no difference. And "added sugars" will always be part of (and never greater than) total sugars. What that means is that the "added sugar" line item is merely a punitive measure designed to target and pressure food companies.
For the FDA to adopt this change, politics would have to beat out science. Sadly, that would hardly set any new precedent for the FDA.
You've reeled in disgust as governments target food trucks. You were aghast when the Food Safety Modernization Act put small farmers in its crosshairs. And you were outraged when we told you about USDA regulators shuttering an award-winning artisanal salumi maker. Just how far will the government go to intrude on your food freedom?
A new report released this week from Keep Food Legal executive director Baylen Linnekin, Michael Bachmann, and the Institute for Justice shows how food producers across the U.S. are increasingly dealing with government officials who want to tell them what they grow, raise, sell and eat. The IJ report, The Attack on Food Freedom, outlines case after case of local, state and federal officials cracking down on farmers, chefs, grocers and other food artisans.
As Keep Food Legal and the report define it, “food freedom” is your right to grow, raise, produce, buy, sell, share, cook, eat and drink the foods you want. But government officials frequently pass laws that undermine the right of food entrepreneurs to earn an honest living. The report reveals that overzealous food safety regulations, pointless obstacles put in place by bureaucrats, and a “new” interpretation of public health that permits regulations for nearly any reason together threaten the livelihood of small food entrepreneurs.
The report also reveals that America's early history contained few if any restrictions on food freedom--after British rule that was increasingly rife with such restrictions. And when the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments ended the horror of slavery and guaranteed the rights of African Americans, food freedom expanded in scope as a result.
“This report demonstrates that food freedom is a vitally important part of America's history and that we’ve moved away from respecting that right,” said Linnekin. “I hope this report will spur legislators, regulators and courts at all levels of government and people from all political, ideological and dietary perspectives to recognize the importance of food freedom.”